Who taught you how to pray?
As Catholics, we are surrounded by prayer. We pray the liturgy (Mass, other sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, and devotions), traditional Catholic prayers, and silent and spoken personal prayers.
But how is a Catholic prayer constructed? Let’s see what we can learn from the style of prayer used most often at Mass – a “collect.” The prayer typically unfolds according to a traditional format: YOU-WHO-DO-THROUGH. You can use the YOU-WHO-DO-THROUGH model to build prayers of your own.
YOU: we name God and acknowledge a particular aspect of God’s greatness.
WHO: we recall something that God has done in the past, or promised to do in the future.
DO: we ask God to do something for us, or – even better – to open our hearts to better understand what God is asking US to do.
THROUGH: we make our prayer through Christ our Lord. The Church IS the Body of Christ, and when we pray the liturgy, the Body is joined to Christ the Head, in prayer to God the Father.
A “collect” prayer (such as the Opening Prayer at Mass) isn’t very specific: it speaks in more general terms, allowing each of us to unite our own individual prayer to that of the one spoken by the priest, and to see our own joys and challenges as one with the Church and with Jesus.
When we pray as a Catholic, we pray with the Church. There’s certainly nothing wrong with heartfelt, improvised, personal, first-person singular prayers in the quiet of our hearts, among our family, or even in small groups. But when the Church prays publicly in the liturgy and other quasi-liturgical settings, we are called to pray as the Church prays.